The Los Angeles Angels spent the pre-lockout portion of the offseason addressing their biggest need: pitching. While they did bring in four pitchers — Noah Syndergaard, Michael Lorenzen, Aaron Loup, and Raisel Iglesias — they have yet to add the ace-level starter they were hoping for.
They failed to land any of the top free agent starting pitchers, including Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, and Max Scherzer, leaving the trade market as their only means of adding another impact starter. But their team is definitely improved from 2021, at least according to ESPN.
With all of that being said, they have been rated rather favorably by their 2022 ZiPS Projection. Developed by Dan Szymborski and released prior to each season, ZiPS Projections go player-by-player to assess an entire roster.
For the Angels, ZiPS is favorable that they can scare their AL West rival Houston Astros, with one caveat: they have to stay healthy.
Angels Position Players
ZiPS is obviously high on the Angels’ position players, as it is without a doubt the strength of their roster. Mike Trout is projected to lead the team’s position players in WAR (5.0), but Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, and Jared Walsh are all projected to produce All-Star level offense as well.
Unlike some other outlets, ZiPS is high on the Angels projected catching duo of Max Stassi and Matt Thaiss, with both projected at a respectable 1.4 WAR. However, the middle of the infield and the corner outfield spots are where they start to lose some faith.
Surprisingly, Szymborski argues that the Angels should start Minor League star Michael Stefanic at second base if David Fletcher gets off to another slow start. Fletcher would then be relegated to to a utility role behind one of Tyler Wade, Luis Rengifo, or Andrew Velazquez at shortstop.
ZiPS is also not high on Justin Upton or Jo Adell, but has some favorable outlooks on Brandon Marsh. Clearly, some decisions need to be made at the more questionable spots on the Angels defense and batting order.
Angels Starting Pitchers
ZiPS is confident in the Angels starting rotation as it currently stands, but only if Syndergaard and Ohtani stay healthy. It projects the rotation to be Syndergaard, Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Michael Lorenzen, and Reid Detmers, calling it a respectable group if all are available.
However, availability has been an issue for three of these players — the best three — in recent years. Acquiring an impact starter via trade would drastically improve the projections on this unit, even if it is solid on paper as is.
ZiPS projects Syndergaard to lead the way in terms of WAR (2.6) as well as innings pitched (139). The six-man rotation is part of why these numbers are lower than expected, but that is by design to maintain health for all six starters.
ZiPS is high on the top of the Angels bullpen but is very worried about the depth. Iglesias (2.80 ERA), Loup (3.50 ERA), and Mike Mayers (3.82 ERA) projects to be one of the best top-threes out of the pen in all of baseball, but where production comes from afterwards is unclear.
After those three, ZiPS has Austin Warren with a slight regression from 2021, then the somewhat inconsistent arms of Andrew Wantz, Jose Quijada, Jimmy Herget, and Kyle Tyler rounding things out. As with both the starters and the offense, these things could change.
The Angels did not sign Steve Cishek or Tony Watson until just days before the start of the regular season, and Cishek ended up being one of the most productive relievers on the team.